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Quarantine and isolation

Students and employees need to understand the circumstances when they need to isolate or quarantine and develop a plan for doing so.

Updated: September 15, 2021

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The university does not provide isolation or quarantine housing, meals, or transportation.
  • Students, particularly residential students, should have a plan for what they will do if they need to self-isolate.
  • Self-isolating when needed is crucial to the health of the campus community. Completing the COVID support form initiates outreach from the COVID support team for guidance.
  • Based on CDC guidance, not everyone who fills out the COVID support from will be required to isolate or quarantine. Fully vaccinated students and employees do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19 and have no symptoms.

With COVID-19 vaccines readily available, the university’s approach to isolation and quarantine has changed.

The university does not require COVID-19 vaccination but strongly recommends it and wants students and employees to clearly understand the importance of vaccination. Being fully vaccinated is the best way to limit the need for isolation or quarantine and to protect yourself and others from serious illness.

Learn more about getting vaccinated.

As has been true since the beginning of the pandemic, community heath relies on everyone’s cooperation. Widely available vaccines shift roles and responsibilities for isolation and quarantine arrangements.

  • The university’s role is to provide students with guidance and support through the campus COVID support team. Students and employees access this guidance and support by completing the COVID support form. The university is also responsible for providing convenient access to COVID-19 vaccines to give students and employees the option to greatly reduce the likelihood they need to isolate or quarantine. The university does not provide housing, meals, or transportation for students who need to isolate or quarantine.
  • The role of students and employees is to understand when they need to isolate or quarantine, develop a plan for doing so, and follow that plan if they are exposed or sick to help preserve the health and safety of the campus community.

When to self-isolate

To limit the spread of COVID-19, students and employees should complete a COVID support form if they:

  • Test positive for COVID-19
  • Develop symptoms of a COVID-19 infection (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea)
  • Are awaiting COVID-19 test results
  • Are a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Have been advised to self-isolate by a health authority
  • Need to self-isolate after traveling in accordance with the latest CDC travel guidance

Not everyone who submits a form will be required to isolate or quarantine. The COVID support team will evaluate each individual situation and provide recommendations based on current CDC guidance.

COVID support form

Completing the COVID support form is an important step in connecting with resources. The form gives the campus COVID support team the information they need to assist students and employees. The support team’s role is to check on the student or employee’s situation, help connect them to resources, and provide guidance.

Anyone who submits a COVID support form will be contacted by the support team. The response time is generally within 24 hours but can vary depending on case loads. Students and employees are asked to promptly respond to communications (text, call, or email) from the support team.

Until you have heard from the support team, you need to stay in except for visits to a health care provider. The best option is to have food and other necessities delivered. Do not go to classes or participate in extracurricular activities. If you must go out, maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and avoid public transportation.

Do your part to protect yourself and others by completing the COVID support form when needed. You only need to fill out the COVID support form once during the same isolation or quarantine period. Once that period is over, you should fill the form out if you are again exposed, develop symptoms, or test positive for COVID-19.

Complete the COVID support form

Types of self-isolation

There are two types of self-isolation:

  • Quarantine is for people who may have been exposed because of close contact with a COVID-19 case, travel, or other reasons.
  • Isolation is for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19.

Your health care provider or the campus COVID support team will determine whether you need to quarantine or isolate.

Vaccination status or prior COVID-19 recovery

Your vaccination status or prior recovery from COVID-19 affects whether you need to self-isolate. If you have reason to believe you may need to self-isolate, complete the COVID support form. You will receive guidance based on your status from the COVID support team.

  • Fully vaccinated: Being fully vaccinated is defined as being two weeks past your final dose of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine. Fully vaccinated students and employees do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19 and have no symptoms. The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people without symptoms be tested three to five days after a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and that they wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result. Fully vaccinated students and employees should still watch for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if they are a close contact of a confirmed or suspected case, and they should isolate and be tested for COVID-19 if symptoms develop.
  • Unvaccinated: Those who are unvaccinated need to quarantine or isolate if they are exposed to COVID-19 or develop symptoms of COVID-19. The health and well-being of the campus community depend on unvaccinated individuals following this guidance. Getting vaccinated can greatly reduce the potential need for quarantine or isolation, and the university strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more about getting vaccinated.
  • Recovered from COVID-19: According to the CDC, people who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 and completed their isolation do not need to self-isolate or be tested again for up to three months as long as they do not develop symptoms again. People who develop symptoms again within three months of a COVID-19 diagnosis should self-isolate and be tested. The CDC recommends vaccination even for those who have already had COVID-19. Studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from COVID-19, and the university strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more about getting vaccinated.

All members of the campus community, regardless of vaccination status or prior recovery from COVID-19, should monitor their health daily for symptoms. The university’s self-screening form, available at selfscreen.utk.edu or through the Tennessee app, provides questions you can use to check your health. Use of the form is optional but encouraged.

Stay home anytime you do not feel well. When in doubt, complete the COVID support form to receive guidance from the campus COVID support team.

How students should plan ahead for isolation or quarantine

Isolation or quarantine represents a commitment to keeping yourself and others safe. Students will have access to guidance and support throughout the process. They can check their status and provide updates to the support team at covidsupport.utk.edu.

The university does not provide housing, meals, or transportation for students who need to isolate or quarantine. The campus support team will provide guidance, but students need to develop their own isolation or quarantine plan.

Students who live on campus should make their plan and share it with their roommates or suitemates.

Plans should include the following points:

  • How you will stay separate from others. Students in on-campus housing need to plan for where they will stay off campus. If you plan to temporarily stay with a family member or friend, let them know in advance and review CDC guidance to protect them from possible exposure. Off-campus students and employees can generally isolate or quarantine where they live but need to make every effort to limit contact with others and wear a mask around other people. Anyone in isolation or quarantine should limit trips to essentials and health care appointments and avoid sharing household items.
  • How you will get meals. Restaurant delivery services and food delivery apps are good resources. Popular options with services near campus include Doordash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Postmates. If you have a Vol Dining plan and have completed the COVID support form, you can ask a friend to pick up food for you from Vol Dining locations. Your friend can give your name when getting your meal and Vol Dining will apply it to your plan.
  • How you will stay on track in classes. Communicate with instructors if you need to isolate or quarantine. Instructors are asked to be creative, compassionate, and flexible when working with students who need to isolate or quarantine. Instructors are notified of students’ self-isolation, but it is each student’s responsibility to communicate with instructors and understand what work needs to be completed. ​Instructors have different approaches to handling absences. Make sure you talk to each of your instructors if you have to miss class.
  • What you will do if you do not have personal transportation. If you do not have personal transportation, plan for how you will make arrangements to get to health care appointments or other essential location. Limit trips only to essentials. Before using public transportation or ride-share services, carefully review their safety policies.

Health and care

If you develop new or worsening symptoms while in quarantine or isolation, contact your health care provider or, if needed, your local emergency room.

View the CDC’s list of COVID-19 symptoms.

Students with health concerns can call the Student Health Center nurse triage line at 865-974-5080. The university has a nurse available to speak to students by phone 24 hours a day. After-hours care has been arranged for eligible students through the UT Medical Center emergency room, 865-305-9000. Learn more about Student Health Center eligibility and cost.

Always call 911 in case of an emergency.

The university does not provide in-residence medical care. As with any other serious illness, if you need additional support, you need to plan to receive it at home or with your own caregiver off campus.

Your mental health is also important as you quarantine or isolate. Multiple resources are available, including 24/7 assistance for students and employees in distress.

Learn more about coping and support resources.

Length of quarantine for unvaccinated individuals

In general:

If you are unvaccinated and have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms, you should be tested and, if the test is negative, complete a 10-day quarantine. The quarantine period begins the day after your most recent suspected exposure.

If you live off campus, you may be able to leave quarantine early if you remain symptom-free and test negative for COVID-19 on a PCR-based test performed at least six days after your last exposure date. Testing out is not an option for students living on campus, a precaution consistent with CDC guidelines for residential facilities.

Length of isolation

In general:

  • If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19, you are required to complete a minimum 10-day isolation period. This isolation period begins the day after your symptom onset or the day after your test specimen collection date if you have not experienced symptoms. To end isolation after the 10 days have passed, you must also have been fever-free for a minimum of 24 hours and your symptoms, if any, must be steadily improving.
  • Close contacts who develop symptoms of COVID-19 need to be tested and isolate until the results are known. If they are positive, they have to isolate for at least 10 days. If they are negative, they still have to complete a 10-day quarantine.
  • If you develop symptoms and have no known exposure to COVID-19, you may be required to complete a 10-day isolation period. This isolation period begins the day after the onset of symptoms. Your health care provider or the campus COVID support team can provide guidance.

Each situation is unique, and students and employees should follow the guidance of their health care provider or the COVID support team about ending their quarantine or isolation.

Travel

To avoid exposure during travel, wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently. Clean frequently touched surfaces and monitor your health.

Anyone coming to campus who has recently traveled, whether in the US or internationally, should decide whether they need to self-isolate based on local travel restrictions, the rate of community spread to which they have been exposed, any specific known exposures, their own health assessment, and their vaccination status.

CDC often adjusts guidance on travel. Review the current guidance to assess your situation and determine if you need to self-isolate because of travel.

Learn more about the status of university travel.

Helpful CDC resources

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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